Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. I offer no guarantees whatsoever about any of the following tactics actually working, but they worked for me and my circumstance.
If I could, I would rather not ever go through this again.
I do not endorse speeding or driving past any speed limit, especially as a bicyclist and person hyper-aware of the detrimental effects of speeding in automobiles and general danger posed to the public.
In my case, I really did think I was unfairly singled out by a CHP officer one July Sunday morning on one of Southern California’s largest highways. That’s whom this article is intended for: those who believe they are innocent but may be intimidated by the legalese of the courtroom and the cops.
If driving way past speed limits is your hobby and reason for living, more power to you, please don’t hurt anyone, and don’t be a deusch if you get caught.
Your Problem(s): A law enforcement agent/cop/highway patrol in California gives you a speeding ticket.
You go home crushed, not knowing what to do.
A week or so later, you get a letter from a courthouse, stating you must pay the $400 for “bail.”
The only way you can get that money back is to contest and beat the ticket.
Otherwise, you plead guilty, pay even more money, go to driving school, and have your insurance rate go higher.
You really can’t afford any of this.
In my particular case, I’d been cited for violating 22349(a), which states the following:
“22349. (a) Except as provided in Section 22356, no person may drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than 65 miles per hour.”
I was intimidated a little when people were saying that violation of this particular code in California was difficult to contest, and that I would need to suck it up and take the hit.
Whether you win your $400 back or not, is all contingent on preparation. Know what the specific statute they’re charging you with violating. In my case it was 22349(a).
1. Prepare for your case. File a “Request for Discovery.” A template for writing and can be found here. You’ll make adjustments depending on your case, but the list there seems somewhat comprehensive. Write to both the agency who pulled you over (perhaps California Highway Patrol or local police department) and the courthouse where you it says to appear specifically requesting documents. Get this in as soon as possible.
2. Whether you choose to go to court or go to trial by declaration (you basically writing a letter stating how non-guilty you are), it seems that best strategy above all is to put the burden of proof squarely on the officer and how they used whatever tool they claimed to have used to determine your speed. Raise reasonable doubt.
Long Answer/My Story:
In preparation of the “Request for Discovery”:
1) I read the tips at Ticket Assassin and NOLO. Useful to me were the following statements “You can contest your ticket by mail without making a single court appearance. Contesting your citation through the mail gives you a better chance of winning your case than at a court trial. Even if you seem to be guilty of violating the law, the procedural hassles for the prosecution will often lead to a dismissal.”
“In many states, with many tickets, it’s possible — and sometimes even fairly easy — to challenge the police officer’s view of what happened. This is particularly likely in situations where a cop must make a subjective judgment as to whether you violated the law. For example, when an officer gives you a ticket for making an unsafe left, you may argue that your actions were “safe and responsible” considering the prevailing traffic conditions. It will always help your case if you can point to facts that tend to show that the cop was not in a good location to accurately view what happened or was busy doing other tasks — for example, driving 50 mph in heavy traffic.”
“Here are the types of evidence most likely to help you convince the judge that you — not the officer — are in the right:
- Statements of witnesses, such as passengers or bystanders, who testify to your version of events.
- A clear, easy-to-understand diagram showing where your vehicle and the officer’s vehicle were in relation to key locations and objects, such as an intersection, traffic signal, or other vehicle. Diagrams are especially important for tickets given at intersections, such as right-of-way, traffic light, or stop sign violations.
- Photographs of intersections, stop signs, and road conditions. These can be used to show conditions like obscured stop signs or other physical evidence that backs up your case.
- Any other evidence that would cast doubt on the officer’s ability to accurately observe your alleged violation. A classic way to do this is to prove his view was obscured — or that his angle of observation made it impossible to accurately see what happened.”
2) Pick up your local NOLO book on fighting your speeding ticket in California for specifics on dealing with your unique case. The local library might have a copy.
Writing the Request for Discovery:
I wrote and requested roughly: 1) all notes, records, files, logs 2) the operator’s manual for the instrument used to “catch me” 3) regulations, guidelines for use of the instrument 4) engineering reports performed in determination of the speed limit 4) listing of traffic tickets by the officer who gave me the ticket 5) total tally of all traffic tickets.
Response from Law Enforcement agency and the court:
A few days later, I got a package from the Law Enforcement agency.
It was bulky but content-less. I remember getting was this: 1) a copy of the ticket and 2) the operator’s manual. 3)regulations, guidelines for use of the instrument and 4) a maintenance log for the radar gun. Requests for other information were explained away. They told me to go to CalTrans to get an engineering report. CalTrans was very unhelpful and had better things to do then help me fight my ticket. I had been planning to say that conditions were safe, but that isn’t relevant in a 22349(a) case.
There wasn’t a lot I was given to work with, I felt.
In my own trial by written declaration:
Personally in my own trial by written by declaration, I stated all the facts: date, time, time of day, position on the street, street/highway you are taking, direction heading, proximity to the officer.
I also stated how slow my car was and even made a joke about using my car to replace a patrol car.
I basically said that the officer didn’t produce a lot of evidence stating that I was the correct car that she’d pulled over.
Perhaps one clinching statement was me making explicit reference to the operator’s manual, noting one limitation of the radar gun: that it wasn’t advisable for use in heavy traffic with multiple lanes, which is exactly what the traffic was on this particular highway. That it has “multiple lanes” is a given. To establish that the traffic was indeed “heavy”, I mentioned that I had to wait a while before merging to exit when the cop pulled me over.
A few months later, I get a call from my sister, who opens my mail. They were refunding me $399.00.
I still wonder why they had to keep that dollar, maybe I should fight them for that, too.